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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Get Professional Book Edits For (almost) Free - Looking For Line Edits

In my last post I talked about the three kind of edits you need, and how to get content edits for free (or nearly free). Content edits are key if you want a tight, well-written book, but they aren't the edits that the average reader will know you need. No, the average reader who picks up your self-published novel isn't going to comment on Voice or pacing, but they will notice all your typos.

Misspelled words, abused commas, transposing hear for here or mixing up write, right, and Wright are the things that will drive your readers away in droves. Grammar errors in your blurb are going to get you teased on Twitter. I promise. It will happen. I'll probably be the one doing it.

It isn't that professionally edited books are typo free, they aren't. And I've heard plenty of authors excuse their poor editing by pointing out that Big 6 authors have typos. They do have errors, and the errors are glaring because everything else is perfect. What you don't want is to have everything in your book look like it was written by a five-year-old.

Step 1- Know When To Line Edit
Some people get confused on this. I saw someone at my library writing group who proudly announced her second draft was flawless, she'd paid someone to do line edits already and she wanted to share her work with us before she published. It was a nice thought, but she received feedback from the group that made her decide to rewrite a large portion of her story. With the rewrite came new comma errors, and another line editing bill.

Do not line edit until the final draft. Wait until everything else is set in stone, then get line editing help.

Step 2 - Don't Forget Spell Check
Spell check shouldn't be the only editing tool you use, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use your spell check. When you're done with your content editing, run the spell check and weed out the obvious mistakes.

Know How To Use A Comma
- The best way to make line editing free is to know how to use punctuation and words correctly. If you're the product of the public education system in the United States of America I strongly suggest you take a refresher course in the form of a good grammar book from the library or a free trial of the The Chicago Manual of Style. It doesn't matter if you can write essays, scientific papers, and newspaper articles, that's a different style of writing than fiction and you need a refresher course. Get one.

Find The Grammar Nazi
- Somewhere in your life is the person who attacks state park signs with permanent markers because the missing apostrophe drives them to acts of vandalism. Bake this person cookies, buy them a set of red pens, and hand over your manuscript with the cookies. You've made their day! You get free editing and good karma!

Find An Aspiring Editor
- I'll tell you a secret, none of the family pictures on my walls were pictures I paid for. They look professional, and they were done by professionals, but I didn't pay for one of two reasons. Either I gave the photographer the right to use my family photos as advertising material, or I let my family pose for an aspiring photographer who wanted to get practice.

You can do the same thing with aspiring editors. With the self-publishing boom editing has become a lucrative business. It's time consuming and a little boring for the average person, but there are people who love nothing better then whipping commas into place and fixing my then/than errors. There are people who want to start editing professionally but need a client base to build from. These people may not edit for free (they might if they like you - it doesn't hurt to ask if they can cut you a deal if you've known each other for awhile), but they will be cheaper than the professional editor whose been doing this for ten years and already has a client base.

Go Ahead And Pay
- Editing is usually the most expensive part of self-publishing. Most people are paying for line edits, not content edits. You need these edits. If you can't get them from contests, friends, or aspiring editors you need to pay full price. If you can't pay, start writing query letters. Small presses, agents, and editors will copy edit for free. There is no excuse for putting unedited work up for sale. Pay for the editing, on way or another.

But I don't know any editors!
I've heard that one too. Here's a partial list of editors on Twitter. If you'd like to be added to the final list please leave a comment below.

from Precision Editing Group (first 10 pages free for new clients)
(7-21cents per word depending)

I'll add to the list as more come in. Before paying for editing see if you can get a few page sample edit. Make sure you know what you're paying for, and sign a contract that defines pay, results, and time. I haven't used any of these editors, so it's Buyer Beware. You can try asking for a list of past clients and checking sample pages, I imagine most reputable editors will be happy to share their past work unless they've signed a non-disclosure agreement of some kind.

Tomorrow: Editing for Formatting


  1. Another point: if you get someone to help with copyediting, remember that fiction has different rules and allowances than in non-fiction. Further, things like narrative and dialogue often have a wide berth in rules.

    Some people are YOU MUST FOLLOW THE RULES. No incomplete sentences. No dangling anythings. Remember that you are the author and that you have the final say.

  2. Also, remember the final responsibility is with the author. If your editor missed a comma or a misspelled word, you as the author gave approval for your work to go out.